Mass of the Lord’s Supper Begins Easter Triduum

Solemnity Will Give Way to Joy Over the Three Days That Conclude Holy Week

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Marking the end of Lent, and opening the three-day observance of the Triduum, which ultimately leads to the celebration of  the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. Holy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ final meal with his apostles before his death, when he instituted the priesthood and the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Cardinal Wuerl began his homily reflecting on the importance and power of memory to re-live a past experience. When the Holy Father goes through St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile for his general audience, as many as 50,000 people attend. And what stands out, the cardinal said, are the number of cell phones raised up and covering the faces of the people as they take photos.  The 2015 visit of Pope Francis to Washington was no exception, the cardinal fondly recalled. After the event, when life settles back to normal, we are able to re-live the experience over again with the picture.

“We all have pictures of weddings, baptisms, quince años, graduations,” Cardinal Wuerl said.  “At the heart of this blessed gift of memory is that ability to make something that happened in the past present to us all over again.” The Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist, the cardinal said, was Jesus’ way of giving his disciples and all of us a way to remember him.

“Imagine if every picture you took somehow had the power to bring all of that back to life, everything you had experienced back to life again,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “That is what happens in the Eucharist.”

Cardinal Wuerl noted the Eucharist is a way to recall Jesus’ suffering and death: “What Jesus established was a memorial that would actually make him present, not just a memory. He would actually be present in reality.”

Jesus’ example of washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, the cardinal continued, is a model for us to minister to the brothers and sisters of our spiritual family. “It was a sign and symbol of how we are supposed to love one another, to care for one another.”

Through participating in the living and real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we can bring what we have received back into the world, the cardinal said as he concluded his homily.

“After we have reposed the Blessed Sacrament this evening in the Chapel of Repose, and after we go back out into the city… let us bring with us our experience of Jesus, the truth of the Gospel message, the challenge of loving service, and the remembrance of the washing of the feet,” Cardinal Wuerl said.

After the homily, Cardinal Wuerl washed the feet of twelve parishioners in memory of Jesus’ act of humility and service to his apostles when he washed the feet of his apostles. The individuals were chosen by the cathedral and reflected the diversity of the St. Matthew’s Cathedral parish and its ministries.

After the Mass, the Eucharist was moved in a solemn procession to a side chapel to the altar of repose for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament where the faithful were able to spend time in quiet prayer and reflection. On Holy Thursday, the altar and sanctuary are stripped of all ornamentation – crucifixes and flowers are removed, candles and lamps are extinguished, and holy water fonts were emptied as a reflection of the emptiness of the world without Christ on Good Friday when he died on the cross.

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The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 655,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 93 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.